Mexican artist, filmmaker, and musician Ricardo Nicolayevsky relocated to New York in 1980 to attend film school at New York University. Thus began his ambitious Lost Portraits cycle, comprising lyrical portraits of friends and peers shot on Super8 and 16mm across several years and sojourns in both Mexico and the US. Figuration and cinematic narrative play off of symbolism and abstraction across these avant-garde vignettes. As Mexican poet Luis Felipe Fabre observed, Nicolayevsky’s subjects “enact private performances of selfhood, exaggerating to the point of becoming absent and turning themselves, precisely, into their own portraits.... A presence disappears and becomes a symbol of what once was. Do the Lost Portraits portray an era? Are they a record of ’80s underground culture?” These words resonate as you watch NYC ’83, a 1983 portrait of Nicolayevsky’s Lower East Side neighborhood. Its formal experimentation and electronic soundtracks by Nicolayevsky and collaborator Barbara Ireland emphasize the enduring grit of a soon-to-be-gentrified neighborhood.
Ricardo Nicolayevsky’s NYC ’83
MoMA March 9–April 9, 2018